Sunday, October 08, 2006

Of Mice And Me

Your comments about mice in this post are making me smile. And they made me remember the mouse-filled part of my life.


Basically, it was all Beatrix Potter's fault.

I read that, as a young woman, Beatrix kept mice inside her bedroom closet and she'd carry them out to sketch and to play with them, also. 

She'd place one of the mice on a ceiling lamp rim and it enjoyed falling down upon her bed which she always moved just below the lamp. It was the mouse's favorite trick (although how Beatrix knew that for certain?).  シ

One day Beatrix placed the mouse on the lamp rim and just as the mouse jumped, she realized she hadn't moved the bed to just below it. The mouse fell to the floor, Beatrix gingerly picked him up, then he died, slowly, within her hand.

She was devastated and felt guilty for a long time.

I thought about that story for a few months. It was a sad story, yes, but still, it was just a mouse!

And then Naomi brought home two pet mice when she was 20. The mice were cute--both little girls, one black, one white. She'd hold the tiny, hairy things and it would give me the eebie-jeebies just to watch her. I told her never in millions of years could I hold a mouse. 

Never say never. 

Eventually I did hold the black one --it was the funniest mouse; for awhile it was in a cage where it could squeeze its way out. When I'd come in to check on it? The silly thing would look at me then race to its cage and squeeze itself back inside.

And then around 20 months later, Naomi went on a road trip with an all-girl band over to England for a whole month and she needed me to care for the one remaining mouse--the black one. And oh dear--it died while she was gone. 

The morning I saw its still little body, I cried. And more--Beatrix Potter's story about her mice came back to me and suddenly I felt like our house was no longer a home without a mouse in it.

So I went and bought another mouse for Naomi, a white one. I even trained it to submit to being held. Well, Naomi returned from her trip (I'd told her over the phone about her mouse's demise) and after a couple days, she told me in a "well, uh, I hate to tell you this" kind of way. She didn't really want another mouse. 

So the little white mouse became mine. Two weeks later, she gave birth to nine more mice.

Oh dear. All of a sudden I was the caretaker of 10 tiny mice.

Fortunately, Naomi had extra cages because she'd also recently gone through a hamster stage (oh, the adventures with those). 

So there I was feeling rather like Beatrix Potter, herself. The keeper of 10 mice! Eventually I had to separate all the males--male mice are brats! Always one must be king if you keep them together, and they fought until there was nothing left to do but give each one a cage of his own.

The four female mice--now, they were sweet! They all got along, cuddled and took care of one another. (And I could make a little sermon out of those differences, but I won't.)

But then after a year and a half, the mice began dying, one by one, over a six month period. And with most of the deaths, I would cry. Especially when the mother mouse died, for she had been my first, my favorite.

Then I chose another favorite mouse, a male, and as he lay dying I stood over him, petted his tiny back and whimpered, "No, Little Mouse, please don't die." I prayed for him and still he died--and I sobbed. Just sobbed.

And two years after I'd bought the mouse for Naomi, we were once again a mouseless house. (Well, except for the wild mice I often hear over my head as I sit at this basement computer. Oh dear.)

Part of me wanted to start all over again--the part which loved how the mice acted happier to see me than most of the people in my life did. I especially appreciated them for that. 

I enjoyed holding them and listening to my old Bob Hope Radio Show cassettes while I cleaned their cages down here in the basement. They'd lived down here in their own little room.

But I just couldn't face all those inevitable deaths again.

Yet now, a few years later? Sometimes I toy with the idea of keeping mice again when we finally settle in another place (hopefully in the country). The mice were so cute, tiny and fun. So who knows?

I mean, like they say--never say never.


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